“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice. She was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English.”
An apt start to an article for a player who raises a lot of questions.
Liverpool have a great track record of producing some fine young talents, with Jurgen Klopp no stranger to giving players a chance in the first-team. Alexander-Arnold is a testament to that, occupying a key role at right-back this season both domestically and in Europe where he dominated Young Player of the Year, Leroy Sane.
Ben Woodburn is another academy graduate whose come through the ranks, albeit occupying a far more withdrawn role this season. Yet, one player remains in the shadows, bereft of first-team opportunities despite an outstanding goal-scoring record at youth level.
Harry Wilson joined Liverpool at the age of eight back in 2005, progressing through the youth ranks before making his debut for the Under-18s as a 15-year-old. One year later and he made his first appearance for Wales under Chris Coleman. Breaking Gareth Bale’s record by 108 days, he became the youngest player ever to feature for the international side. That upward trajectory continued, culminating in Wilson becoming the Under-23s captain for the 2016/17 season. From then on, he hasn’t dared look back.
Netting 28 times in 2016/17, the Welshman had a season to remember at Melwood, clocking up countless assists to guide his side to a third-placed finish in Premier League 2. Rightfully catching the attention of Jürgen Klopp, Wilson later received his first senior appearance against Plymouth Argyle in January.
However, with exception to Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Burnley back in March 2017 where he was named on the bench, Wilson has since struggled to obtain regular first-team opportunities for The Reds, opting to go out on loan in January in search of first-team football.
Any doubts over Wilson’s ability to deal with the rigour of first-team football have since been answered; flourishing in the Championship, the winger has been instrumental in Hull City’s fight to avoid the drop.
The 21-year-old has scored against Nottingham Forest, Norwich, Ipswich, QPR, Burton Albion and most recently, Bristol City, a total of seven goals in 11 games. His two most recent goals were the perfect demonstration of the plethora of skills Wilson possesses in his locker.
Some positive interchanging between Jackson Irvine saw the Liverpool youngster wriggle into open space before unleashing a beautifully curled shot into the top corner, giving the goalkeeper no chance. It was a moment of quality far superior than usual Championship standards; a statement made without an intended dig at England’s second division, but merely a mark of just how good Wilson has been.
Then there’s his free-kick goal, showing yet another tool in his repertoire. A long-range strike from outside the area proved too much for the ‘keeper once again, extending an already impressive goals tally for the Welshman.
Harry Wilson's second goal for Hull v Bristol. pic.twitter.com/KaQLaXkCsv
— Kop Left (@KopLeft) April 22, 2018
To add some context, Jarrod Bowen has made the joint most goals contributions for Hull this season with 13 goals and 1 assist in 3,210 minutes of football. Wilson has had a direct hand in 10 goals (7 goals, 3 assists) in just 816 minutes, producing over half Bowen’s output in a far smaller window. To do so from the wing makes the feat even more impressive.
Serving as an integral part of The Tigers’ side since January, his quick thinking has produced four penalties while creating an array of goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates. To make such an impact in so little time speaks volumes about Wilson’s quality and it came as no surprise to see him pick up the Sport PESA Player of the Month for March, averaging a goal or assist every 81.6 minutes.
Wilson also marked just his second international appearance for Wales with a goal back in March, latching onto Gareth Bale’s ball before cutting inside and curling his shot into the far corner. A second-half assist for Sam Vokes was reflective of the youngster’s skillset; able to wriggle his way in between the lines, Wilson proved a constant menace for China.
Domestic games against West Brom and Everton sandwiched in between crucial Champions League ties have highlighted the lack of depth within this Liverpool side, particularly on the attacking front. As good as the electric trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and recent PFA Player of the Year Mohamed Salah have been this season, an injury to one of them would hold serious implications for Liverpool’s chances of success, highlighting the need for further reinforcements ahead of the 2018/19 campaign.
While Manchester City have a multitude of quality options on their bench in Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan, Solanke and Danny Ings reflect the huge drop off in quality where Liverpool are concerned. Thus, The Reds are likely to spend in the summer as they eye ready-made recruits in an attempt to close the gap on Pep Guardiola’s side. Yet, Harry Wilson’s impressive form shouldn’t continue to unnoticed by the Liverpool manager.
A lack of consideration for the forward when Mane left for AFCON last season was telling in its own right, but a year on, it’s getting harder and harder for Klopp not to give Wilson a chance.